Women-owned businesses thriving in Freeport after COVID-19 shutdown

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FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to close for good.

But in Freeport, thirteen new businesses opened last year, many of which are owned by women.

Chandra Cearns moved to Freeport two years ago in search of new opportunities. She opened two stores last year, one of which is Fin, Fur, Feather Pet Shop, at 20 Chicago Avenue. Now, she’s preparing to open a third.

“We have the tattoo shop. A girl’s gotta tattoo. We also have a…tubing company,” Cearns said. “The pet shop will be opening around the middle of July. We’re going to be selling pet supplies: dog food, cat food, rodent food, bird food, because a lot of people have been requesting a lot of that.”

For Naomi Johnson-Scharr, it’s a dream come true to become a business owner. She just opened NJS Studios, at 18 W Stephenson St, two months ago.

“It’s been great to be able to open my own [photography] studio and be able to offer my dreams and my visions for other people as well,” she said.

Bill Clow, from the Greater Freeport Partnership, says there are several reasons why people are drawn to the Pretzel City, like affordable real estate, historic spaces, and the community.

“I think all of them are women or minority-owned businesses,” Clow said. “One of the things we want to see is, we want to see our businesses, our business owners, reflect our community. And so, the more we have opportunities for all entrepreneurs, that’s going to make us a more rich and fulfilled community.”

Cearns is optimistic about what the future has in store.

“I think it’s really good for females to, especially, not be scared to open up their own businesses and get out there and do it. We’ve worked really hard the last few years to do what we’ve done, but it’s worth it,” she said.

Clow says five to ten businesses are expected to open in Freeport this year, including a beauty salon, jewelry shop, clothing store, restaurants, and more.

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